Always keep in mind that Chronicles was written for exiles, returning and returned to Jerusalem from Babylonian captivity. In the early chapters, the Chronicler (as we will call the writer of Chronicles) emphasizes that God has not abandoned them; they are still God’s people. As he moves into the period of Israel’s previous monarchy, his point will be that Israel’s past successes (and her future ones) have depended on faithfulness to God, led by kings who likewise were faithful.
Saul was an example of what happens to a king and his subjects who fail to yield their wills to God. “Saul died because he was unfaithful to the Lord; he did not keep the word of the Lord and even consulted a medium for guidance, and did not inquire of the Lord. So the Lord put him to death . . .” But Saul’s failure to lead Israel in righteousness resulted in all of Israel being endangered. The fact that a coastal people like the Philistines could reach the heartland of Israel (Mount Gilboa – just south of Jezreel) shows Israel’s vulnerability. Just as a river never rises higher than its source, so people seldom rise above their leaders. As the returning exiles read this book and contemplate their future and restoration of their nation, the Chronicler makes plain that a righteous leadership will be essential.
Too often we use this lesson to focus on the leadership of our nation. But the Chronicler has in mind not the nations of the world, but the kingdom of the People of God. Too seldom do we think about the importance of righteous leadership in the Church, leaders who are sensitive to God’s commands, obedient, and “inquire of the Lord.” I suppose we believe we can all live for Jesus without leadership. But Kings and Chronicles point out the inadequacy of such a view. The health of the Church, whether universal or congregational or individual, is tied inseparably to the holiness of its leaders.